Electric vehicles guide

Question & answers

Sales of electric cars worldwide are rising rapidly at the moment. Until just a few years ago, electric cars were still viewed as a niche product but now almost all car manufacturers are launching new e-vehicle models with longer and longer ranges.

Based on data from EVVolumes, the number of electric cars worldwide is now in excess of 5.4 million, and 2.1 million of these were purchased in 2018. Nevertheless, this is still an extremely small percentage of the overall number of vehicles on the planet’s roads. The global fleet of electric vehicles has increased by around 30 times in the last six years. On a global level there are more than 330 models of electric car available. Today around 100 car manufacturers produce electric cars: the Tesla Model S was the top-selling model in 2018.

We often hear people talk about different electric or hybrid models. So, to be clear, there are:

  • 100% electric vehicles (also known as BEVs or Battery Electric Vehicles), which have just one energy storage system aboard. This is based on an electrochemical accumulator, better known as a battery.  One or more electric motors generate mechanical power (and energy recovery when you brake).  
  • Rechargeable hybrids (also known as PHEVs or Plug-in Electric Vehicles), which not only have a rechargeable battery system that can be plugged into the grid but also a more conventional petrol engine (and tank). The internal combustion engine and electric motor deliver mechanical power (and energy recovery when you brake).

Conventional hybrids (also known as Full Hybrids), which have a rechargeable battery system which is charged not by plugging into the grid but by the car’s own conventional petrol engine (and tank). The internal combustion engine and electric motor provide mechanical power (and energy recovery when you brake).

For many people e-mobility is still a remote, almost futuristic world that they are hearing and reading all sorts of things about. The truth of the matter is that electric cars are already here: they are the cars of the present. There are now over 4.8 million cars on the road with most concentrated in nations such as China, the US, Norway, Japan, the UK and Germany (Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance).  

Electric cars:

  • Are sustainable
  • Have a long enough range for average day-to-day trips
  • Are available in a wide choice of models
  • Are becoming more and more accessible in terms of pricing
  • Are both fun and exhilarating to drive.

Driving an electric car has both financial and strictly practical advantages. 

Italy’s 2019 Budget Bill allows tax payers to write off against their tax bill 50% of the cost of the purchasing and installation of electric charging infrastructure not accessible to the public, incurred between March 1 2019 and December 31 December 2021.  It also applies to a power increase up to 7Kw. The write-off, which is calculated on a sum of no greater than 3,000 euro, guarantees savings of up to 1,500 euro, and will come into force after the implementation rules have been published. 

The 2019 Budget Bill also provides for a grant for the purchase of electric and hybrid cars (with emissions of up to 20g of CO2 per kilometre, in line with NEDC norms). The grant  ranges from 4,000 euro (if the purchaser is not trading in a vehicle for scrappage from the same Class EURO 1, 2, 3 and 4 category) to 6,000 euro (in the case of  scrapping a vehicle from the  same Euro Class 1, 2, 3 and 4 categories, if it has been registered for at least 12 months in the name of the same person who owns the new vehicle, or to a family member from the same household,  at the time of purchase).

Once the implementation regulations have come into force, the grant will be offered to anyone purchasing – or leasing - a newly manufactured car designed to transport people (up to a maximum of nine seats: Category M1) costing under 50,000 euro (excluding VAT) and registered in Italy between March 1 2019 and December 31 2021.  

There are other incentives available on a national level also, such as, for instance, a complete exemption from car tax for the five years immediately after the vehicle is registered and discounts on subsequent years. There are also reduced premiums for electric cars on certain insurance policies, with discounts ranging from 30% to 50% depending on the model and the type of cover required.

There are four main factors to consider:

1.     Battery capacity: this is the equivalent of the fuel tank capacity of a conventional car and is indicated in kWh

2.     Range: depends on battery capacity. In terms of the models on sale in Italy, this spans the spectrum from a range of 160 km for the Smart EQ Fortwo (Source: BMW/Smart) to the 632 km delivered by the Tesla model S (Source: Tesla). Range will vary according to a variety of factors, specifically: personal driving style, road conditions, external temperature, heating/air conditioning and preheating.  

3.     Maximum power of internal battery charger: the power of the battery charger is determined by the voltage (single-phase: 230V or three-phase: 400V) and the charging current (e.g.. 10A, 16A 24 A, 32 A, etc.) and ranges from 2.3kW (slow charge using alternating current using cable with domestic plug) to 350kW (ultrafast charge using direct current). This determines the speed at which the battery is recharged. 

Vehicle charging cable: all vehicles are compatible with one or maximum two types of charging cable which are supplied when you purchase or rent your car. These can be used at public or home charging stations.

Range remains one of the main stumbling blocks in purchasing electric vehicles. However, some scientific studies have revealed that 95% of trips do not exceed 200 km [124 miles] (Source: the NHTS, National Household Travel Survey) and, therefore, these distances can easily be covered in the electric cars currently available on the market.

In terms of environmental impact, electric cars today outperform all other available alternatives in terms of CO2 and polluting emissions as they are the only vehicles with technology that completely eliminates local nitric oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) emissions as you drive.

Furthermore, with a view to a carbon-neutral power park module, an electrified transport system would be more sustainable if it did not produce any carbon monoxide emissions. 
For example, if we consider the power park module in Italy (with a renewable share of 33% of the total mix), it is estimated that the emissions from an electric vehicle across the whole well-to-wheels phase is around 70% lower than a petrol vehicle and around half compared to a methane-powered vehicle with near-zero emissions in the case of an almost entirely decarbonised electric power park module  (Source: Enel, Terna, Enerdata processing).
Electric vehicles improve air quality. This thus reduces the direct impact on people’s health, mostly in large cities, with a consequent drop in medical and health spending. 
Lastly, don’t forget noise pollution – the racket caused by traffic and exhaust pipes we are forced to endure every day. Electric cars are silent and driving one will significantly improve your quality of life and that of those around you.

Absolutely not! Electric vehicles require three times less energy than a conventional internal combustion-engined car to cover the same distance.  This is the same as saying that electric vehicles can cover three times more distance than a petrol car using the same energy. 

A well-to-wheels energy analysis of a petrol car is broken down into the following stages:  

  • the oil-refining process
  • transportation
  • the conversion of petrol by engine into mechanical energy

The overall efficiency of this process is 18-19%.

The well-to-wheels energy analysis of an electric vehicle, on the other hand, involves the following stages: 

  • electricity production
  • transmitting it across the grid
  • turning electric energy accumulated in batteries into mechanical energy using the motor 

Here efficiency jumps to 52%.

(Source: Enel processing of data from RSE, European Environment Agency, Joint Research Center (EC), Ispra, Deloitte, Power Park Module Emissions – source: Terna)

Thanks to its superior energy efficiency and savings, electric mobility also makes a contribution to meeting the emissions reduction targets set out in the Paris Agreement  (COP21). This was signed at the 21st annual meeting of Nation States and United Nations to discuss climate change during which countries made national energy efficiency and emissions reduction commitments.

Furthermore, according to the “Opening the Way to National Electric Transport” study carried out by Milan Politecnico (Polytecnic University), if 1 million electric vehicles were on the roads, the increase in national electricity consumption to meet their requirements would be only 0.3%.  This figure was calculated by taking into consideration an average car consumption of 0.15 kWh/km for a 100% electric car and 0.25 kWh/km for a plug-in car with an average annual mileage of 10,000 km for 100% electric car and 5,000 km for plug-ins with 60% charging in public places. Given these projections, the extra consumption relating to one million electric vehicles is the equivalent of 1.3TWh/per year.

Electric cars actually help the grid because in addition to using electricity they are also “batteries on wheels.”

Thanks to smart charging systems, when an electric car is parked and charging, it can also feed the energy stored in its battery back to the grid or recharge only when electricity prices are lower. In nations where there is already a regulatory framework for those technologies, providing these “flexibility” services not only helps the grid to be safely managed, but also generates income for end customers who can reduce the cost of charging.

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